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Week of  February 18-24, 2002

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun


THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROBLEM: "There is a growing catalogue of worries about intellectual property issues—from the emergence of overly broad 'business method' patents to heated charges that proprietary claims on pharmaceuticals stifle affordable access to medicine in the Third World. A day hardly goes by without a high-profile intellectual-property battle heading to court. Meanwhile, university researchers are griping that open, collegial dialogue is being eroded by proprietary interests and secrecy as professors vie to create startups and get rich. These issues are interwoven because they all involve balancing similar kinds of private and public needs in a knowledge-based economy." Technology Review 02/18/02

LEVINE'S PLAN TO SAVE THE INDUSTRY: James Levine believes that chamber music holds the answer to classical music's problems. If the symphony orchestra is a slow and massive battleship, the string quartet is a quick, powerful PT boat, and the newly designated Boston Symphony music director says that the adventurous spirit and adaptability of chamber music must be adopted by the orchestral world if the industry is to survive another century. Boston Globe 02/20/02

WHAT BECOMES A MODERN MASTERPIECE? In olden days defining a masterpiece was fairly easy. Not so today. "A 'masterpiece' - in the sense of a supremely well-achieved work - of modern or contemporary art may not look like much. What makes a work great may reside not in the work itself but in its context and how it marshals support from its viewers' awareness of life and time." San Francisco Chronicle 02/17/02


DANCING ON ICE: Art or sport? Figure skating likes to have it both ways. And while there's no question that there's an art component to ice dancing, "it's hard to get past the frozen smiles and smug cuteness. So why are critics so eager to review these works?" Irish Times 02/18/02

NORTHERN BALLET CROSSROADS: Northern Ballet's new director David Nixon is taking the company in new directions. "It’s a crucial time for both Nixon and NBT - arguably the most popular ballet company in Britain. The pioneering outfit has done much to popularise the artform with its unique 'dance drama' approach to storytelling. But last year the company was treading water after the critical drubbing of its 'exotic' - read whips, chains and leather - production of Jekyll and Hyde." The Scotsman 02/22/02


A MAJOR TV RESTRUCTURING? Their audiences may be shrinking, but TV networks are still money machines. And it's only going to get better if a federal appeals court decision this week is allowed to stand. The ruling, which would remove restrictions on networks owning local stations, could result in a buying spree that will see big conglomerates buy up and consolidate local stations around America. This is a good thing for whom? The New York Times 02/21/02

A MATTER OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS? It's possible that some of the last remaining regulations on ownership of electronic broadcast media might go away. "Regulations still standing include: prohibiting the ownership of a TV station and a newspaper in the same community; limiting a company to owning not more than 35 percent of all TV stations in the United States; and limiting a single company to providing cable TV services to no more than 30 percent of the US population." The American TV world may be about to change in a big way. For the better? The Nation 02/21/02

BBC4 - ARTS HAVEN OR CLEVER DODGE? For years now, Brits have complained that the BBC has been dumbing down the level of its arts programming, and bemoaning the recent lack of much in the way of live concerts or truly informative arts documentaries. The public broadcaster's response has been to launch BBC4, a cable channel supposedly dedicated to the arts. But critics are howling still, saying that the arts should not be relegated to "niche" programming, but distributed throughout the BBC schedule as they once were. Sunday Times of London 02/24/02

HARRY IS NO. 2: Harry Potter has passed Star Wars on the list of all-time biggest-grossing movies.  It has earned more than $926 million at cinemas around the world - but that is still a long way off the number one film, Titanic, which took more than $1.8 billion. BBC 02/20/02

BEYOND DVD: Major technology companies have unveiled what they expect will be the successor to the DVD disc format. "The new format, the Blu-ray Disc, will store more than 13 hours of film, compared with the current limit of 133 minutes. It is expected to come into its own as more viewers become able to record TV shows on DVD machines." BBC 02/20/02

DEFINITION PLEASE: What qualifies to be called a Hollywood movie these days? Some of the biggest studios are owned by non-Americans, stars are as likely to live in New Jersey or Montana or New York as LA, and few films are shot in California anymore... The Age (Melbourne) 02/21/02

MOVIES ON YOUR HARD DRIVE: MGM has decided to offer movies for downloading directly to consumers' computer hard drives. "Only two films will be available for now - the 2001 comedy What's the Worst That Could Happen and the four-year-old swashbuckler, The Man in the Iron Mask, starring Leonardo diCaprio. MGM's willingness to risk software piracy is seen as an indication of its wish to pioneer direct-to consumer systems for Hollywood films." BBC 02/21/02

BANNING ADS FOR KIDS: The European Union may consider banning commercials from children's television. "Powerful voices, citing statistical evidence, are building a case asserting that advertisements between cartoons and other shows for young people are behind increasing levels of child obesity." New Zealand Herald 02/19/02


CUTS AT ENGLISH OPERA? The English National Opera is hurting for money. It's told its musicians and chorus members to prepare for wage cuts. "Many of the staff are said to be outraged at the proposed cuts. Orchestral players, who earn an average of £24,000,say that they cannot tolerate further cuts." The Times 02/16/02

GUARDING GERSHWIN: "Such is the continuing demand for Gershwin's music that the estate brings in an estimated income of between $5 and $10 million a year. Rhapsody in Blue is its biggest earner, I Got Rhythm the most recorded." The estate's heirs zealously guard their family legacy.  "When we took it over in the 1980s, it was not being well minded: Ira had been very passive and trusted everyone." The Telegraph (UK) 02/19/02

STAYING INVOLVED: How "involved" should a musician look while he or she is performing? "In classical performance, there is a range of 'looking involved', from the skilfully charming variety to the grotesquely off-putting. It depends so much, also, on the innate character of the player. Audiences may not always know the music, but we've all been trained by ordinary life to interpret body language, and we can sense the degree of artifice used by a performer." The Guardian (UK) 02/16/02

A LITTLE PORNO, A LITTLE SEX, A LITTLE S&M? The English National Opera's new Calixto Bieito-directed production of Verdi's Masked Ball hasn't even opened yet and it's controversial. According to the English papers: "The chorus are in a 'state of rebellion'; the lead tenor has pulled out; the dress rehearsal - which would normally be available for ENO Friends to see - has been played behind closed doors. The cast were also said to be unhappy about the opening scene, which involves male singers sitting on toilets, and a scene in which the chorus are called on to give a Nazi salute." The Guardian (UK) 02/21/02

ORCHESTRA MUSICIANS - A PLANE-LOAD OF TROUBLE: About 100 members of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic on their way from Europe to perform a concert in Los Angeles, were tossed off their United Airlines flight during a Washington DC stop Monday. The airline says the "rowdiness of a large portion of the troupe made the eight-hour transatlantic trip from Amsterdam to Dulles difficult for the crew and uncomfortable for other passengers. The group refused to sit down when told to, talked loudly and tossed objects around. 'The group was misbehaving, inebriated, opening their own bottles of alcohol, rowdy and nonresponsive to the crew'." Washington Post 02/19/02 

  • WORK HARD, PLAY HARD: The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has something of a history of being hell on flight attendants. One California critic recalls a transatlantic flight with the rowdy Russians as an eight-hour frat party ("the players had picked up roasted chickens from somewhere,") complete with bottles of vodka and dancing in the aisles. But it cannot be denied that this bunch of semi-degenerates is also one of the world's finest orchestras, and the very same critic speculates that it may be their ability to have fun together that creates such a tight-knit quality on stage. Los Angeles Times 02/22/02
AND SPEAKING OF AIRPLANES: When musicians travel, they travel with their instruments. And while some unfortunates (cellists, harpists, etc.) must buy an extra ticket for their music-maker, or even ship it separately, most symphonic instruments fit quite comfortably in an overhead bin. (More comfortably, it could be said, than the overstuffed super-duffles favored by many of today's more inconsiderate travelers.) So why are some airlines, post-9/11, suddenly deciding that violins and violas are not suitable carry-ons? San Francisco Chronicle 02/22/02

TOUGH TIMES FOR UTAH BAND: It should have been a good month for the Utah Symphony - with the Olympics on, the orchestra performed in front of a global audience. The truth has been rather less glamorous. "The opening ceremonies were a humiliation - the organizers, fearing any outcome not predestined (an odd concept for a sports event), forced the orchestra to prerecord its contribution and then shiver in 18-degree weather pretending to play instruments borrowed from a high school (the cold could have damaged fine ones). On the broadcast, heedless television announcers gabbed over practically every note anyway. Olympic officials, meanwhile, took over Maurice Abravanel Hall, forcing the orchestra to rent it back for its concerts in the arts festival." Los Angeles Times 02/21/02

IF YOU CAN'T JOIN 'EM, BEAT 'EM: With record labels phasing out classical music left and right, many major orchestras have found themselves without recording deals, or forced to put out "budget" discs for tiny companies. But the London Symphony Orchestra may have hit on the true future of the industry: self-produced recordings, released on the LSO's own label. The idea was roundly pilloried when it was announced, but a couple of Grammy nominations later, the orchestra may be getting the last laugh. Los Angeles Times 02/24/02

  • THE FUTURE OF "CLASSICAL" RECORDING: In between dumping orchestras, soloists, and string quartets from their roster, Sony Classical execs have apparently found some time to visit the Atlantic provinces of Canada, where they have signed what they hope will be the newest star of a "classical" CD world that increasingly has no room for classical music. Aselin Debison is charming, adorable, lives in a remote location, and most importantly by modern standards of success on the crossover charts, is 11 years old. National Post (Canada) 02/23/02
  • PASSING OF THE RECORDING AGE: Classical recording is drying up. The simple truth is that there are no longer enough classical CDs coming out each month to fill a parish magazine, let alone a consumer glossy with scriptural delusions. What the big labels cannot grasp is that their day is done. All the best music has been recorded many times over by maestros more accomplished and celebrated than any alive." The Telegraph (UK) 02/20/02 
  • SO MUCH FOR THE MORAL HIGH GROUND: Recording companies have tried to make their case against music download sites such as Napster on moral grounds - musicians should get paid for their work. But so far the two pay-download sites developed by the recording industry offer little if any payment to artists, and musicians are furious. The New York Times 02/18/02

MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE 800 LB GORILLAS: "In the first major challenge to the age-old and often contentious system under which record labels contract with artists, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow musicians to become free agents after seven years. The bill would lift the recording industry's 15-year-old exemption to a state labor law that restricts all personal-service contracts to seven years, and thus would apply only to California-based artists. But the bill could have broad implications for the $40 billion music industry, releasing artists from recording deals that often tether them to one label their entire professional career." Chicago Tribune 02/24/02


GUNTER WAND, 90: German conductor Günter Wand, former conductor of the BBC Orchestra has died at 90. "He insisted on a minimum of eight rehearsals for a standard programme, a luxury that only a broadcasting organisation could afford to offer. His rehearsals were meticulous and much appreciated by the orchestra, who respected him as part of a vanishing tradition." The Guardian (UK) 02/16/02

HUGHES' HALLUCINOGENIC REVELATIONS: "IN 1999, a week into filming [a] television series about Australia, the art critic Robert Hughes was involved in a near-fatal car crash. During the five weeks that he lay in a coma in intensive-care, Hughes became intimately acquainted with the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. He was visited by a series of powerful hallucinations more concrete than dreams, more intense than the LSD experiences that he had sampled when he was younger, in which the Spanish painter appeared to be inflicting a prolonged torture on him." The Telegraph (UK) 02/23/02

THAT'S ALL, FOLKS: "Oscar-winning cartoon animator Chuck Jones, who brought to life a host of cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, has died in California of heart failure. He was 89." BBC 02/23/02

THAT WACKY MAYOR: "Sometimes the ways of Mel Lastman are just too bizarre to be explained. Earlier this week, the befuddled mayor [of Toronto] made headlines by going to Ottawa and demanding the federal government write a big cheque for the Toronto opera house. No doubt many people in the arts world will feel grateful to Lastman for fearlessly speaking out... The only problem is that at this point his passionate plea is utterly irrelevant." Toronto Star 02/20/02


WHAT PEOPLE READ (HAVE READ): Michael Korda's new book traces the history of best-selling books over the past century. The lists, he reports, haven't changed much over the years: "These kinds of books can be easily categorized: dieting, self-help advice (financial or personal), celebrity memoirs, popular fiction, scientific or religious revelations, medical advice (sex, longevity, child-rearing), folksy wisdom, humor, and the Civil War." But, writes critic Jerome Weeks, if you check the lists carefully, there's quite a difference in what sells now from what used to sell. Dallas Morning News 02/17/02 

THE ELECTRONIC LIBRARY: E-publishing may have slowed with the dot-com bust, but libraries are starting to get into the electronic book business. A library system in California is jumping online. "By clicking on links that are integrated into the library's own catalog, computer users will be able to read the full text of any book in Ebrary's database, a collection of about 5,000 titles. The system enables people to search electronically through a book and read its pages on the screen, while ultimately encouraging them to check out a physical copy when they want to read it in full. No option is available for downloading the books to portable devices." The New York Times 02/21/02

THE SAME READ: Getting everyone in a city to read the same book is an idea that is catching on big time. Why? "In an age of multimedia menus, with 24-hour cable TV and movies on demand, it might seem anachronistic that the low-tech book is occasioning this sudden civic interest. But some believe the surge of popularity for communal reading - not just by cities but also by book clubs and at bookstore events - is a direct response to the essential loneliness of modern life, an antidote to the 'bowling alone' syndrome coined by Harvard University's Robert D. Putnam to describe the recent downturn in civic participation." Los Angeles Times 02/17/02

WORDS WORDS WORDS: Britain's poet laureate has written words for a hymn to mark Queen Elizabeth's jubilee this year. Indeed, the poet laureate writes words for every official occasion. But why? "The whole concept of the poet laureate is completely ridiculous and they shouldn't have one. When the idea of it started, poets had to have aristocratic and royal patrons in order to survive, but everything is different now. The masses are not interested in what the queen wants anyway, so it's all a farce. And the forced subjects are bound to make the poetry worse." The Guardian (UK) 02/19/02

THE EMPEROR'S NEW HORROR STORY: So Stephen King says he's going to retire. Maybe it's not a bad idea. "King's retirement may be unlikely, but it's not a bad idea. In fact, it's a great idea. Truth is, King hasn't reached the point of recycling; he's been recycling for years. His fans may not want to admit it, but Stephen King's most recent books are dull, dreary, repetitive, unoriginal, uninspired hack work. And the best thing - perhaps the only thing - that King can do about it is to stop writing." Salon 02/19/02


GLOBAL CONTRACTS FOR PERFORMERS? As the entertainment industry becomes more globally centralized and mega-corporations control film TV and stage, performers are looking for ways to protect themselves. Performers' unions are trying to put together a global contract. "Our experience has been that a diversity of voices and viewpoints in the marketplace is something that cannot exist in a massively consolidated industry; that ultimately the voices that emanate from those different consolidated TV and radio stations are coming from a single source which dictates that those voices are going to be singing the same tune." Backstage 02/20/02

WELL, THERE'S ONLY SO MANY WAYS BOY CAN GET GIRL: "A funny thing happened to the modern musical on its way to the theater: it became serious — boy usually doesn't get girl anymore — and the endings are not always neat and tidy. Has musical theater changed in any lasting way? Must an audience always leave a show humming?" The New York Times 02/24/02


ARNAULT BAILS ON PHILLIPS: When Bernard Arnault's LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired Phillips auction house in November 1999, "reportedly for $115 million," Arnault made an aggressive play to overtake the larger but troubled Sotheby's and Christie's. It didn't work, and now the opportunity has apparently passed, so LVMH is selling its stake in Phillips. International Herald Tribune 02/20/02

INSIDE OUTSIDERS: The phenomenon of "outsider" art has gained traction in recent years, to the point that the definition of "outsider" has been stretched to the point that no one seems particularly sure what it means. And in today's media-saturated world, where self-promotion is as easy as getting a web site, has the whole concept become outdated, as outsiders in the art world become the rule rather than the exception? Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 02/20/02

STOCKHOLM ART THEFT: Five paintings, including a Brueghel, were stolen over the weekend from an arts and antiques fair in Stockholm. "The paintings, worth over £1.7 million, were part of the stock of an international art dealer." The Guardian (UK) 02/20/02

THE MODERN CONNOISSEUR: There is a difference between being an art lover and being a connoisseur. The former requires only love of art, the latter a deep understanding of what makes art, what differentiates one artist from another, and the context in which a given work exists. But "connoisseurship looks at the end product, while much contemporary art is process-oriented." A new exhibition in Boston aims to upgrade the art world's concept of the connoisseur. Boston Globe 02/24/02

FOSTER AT THE TOP: Norman Foster is arguably Britain's most-successful architect ever. "He has achieved this as a modernist architect in a notoriously conservative country, a mere decade after the traditionalism of Prince Charles seemed all-conquering and as an outsider in this allegedly class-ridden land. How? The short answer is talent and determination. Yet these alone cannot explain his appeal to institutions as diverse as the British Museum, Wembley Stadium, Sainsbury's, the Royal Academy and the mayoralty of London. It would be nice to believe that they have all suddenly converted to beautiful and radical architecture; nice but, alas, not plausible." Prospect 023/02

BRINGING HOME THE BACON: When painter Francis Bacon died in April 1992, "he left everything - an estate valued at some £11 million, including the mews studio in South Kensington - to John Edwards, an illiterate East London barman. Why? In the years since, Bacon's legacy has proven to be complicated. The Telegraph (UK) 02/19/02

JOAN OF ARCHITECTURE: Phyllis Lambert's father already had an architect picked to design New York's Seagram's building. Lambert was 27 at the time, and protested. "She picked Ludwig Mies van der Rohe instead. His bronze-covered Park Avenue Seagram Building turned out to be his signature building, an aesthetic triumph and a world landmark." Some 50 years later, she reflects on the course of architecture since. Chicago Tribune 02/19/02

CYBER-COLLECT: The Guggenheim has acquired its first internet art for the permanent collection. But "how do you collect art that exists everywhere — and yet nowhere — in cyberspace? What does one acquire when there is no tangible object to possess? The artists have conceived two new works, but what they have created is computer code, the underlying set of software instructions that determine what is seen on the screen and how it responds to user input. So what does a museum pay for online art and what does it get?" The New York Times 02/18/02

THE BILBAO EFFECT LIVES: The Guggenheim Bilbao drew 930,000 visitors last year, down just slightly from the year before. "The museum with its dramatic architecture therefore continues to be a major draw, attracting people who would otherwise not come to Bilbao. The museum estimates that its economic impact on the local economy was worth Pta28 billion last year (up from Pta24.8 billion in 2000), and it also brought in a further Pta4.5 billion to the Basque treasury in taxes. This represents the equivalent of 4,415 jobs. A visitor survey revealed that 82% came to Bilbao exclusively to see the museum or had extended their stay in the city to visit it." The Art Newspaper 02/15/02


BUSH'S ARTS COUNCIL APPOINTMENTS SEND "MIXED MESSAGES": President George Bush has appointed six new members of the National Council on the Arts. The Council advises the National Endowment for the Arts. "However, the nominations to serve on this Council, which oversees the selection of grants for all American artists, send mixed messages about the President's support of diverse art forms and of the Arts Endowment itself." One of the appointees, for example, belongs to an organization that advocates abolishment of the NEA. Artswire Current 02/21/02

A COPYRIGHT TOO FAR? The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will review whether Congress' 1998 copyright law went too far in protecting the rights of those who create intellectual property. Plaintiffs "argue that Congress sided too heavily with writers and other creators when it passed a law in 1998 retroactively extending copyright terms by 20 years." Wired 02/19/02

PUBLISHING DEFENSIVELY: Want to protect your great idea from being stolen by others? Tell the world. "Such disclosure, known as defensive publishing, is an increasingly common tactic for protecting intellectual property. Publishing an innovation means that competitors have access to it, of course. But many companies say the competitive risk is outweighed by the benefit of making it difficult for someone else to win a patent — a patent that could give the holder the right to demand licensing fees from all other users of the technology or technique." The New York Times 02/18/02

PURELY PURITAN: Oh, let's all dump on the Puritans, shall we? Those odd folk of 17th Century England weren't appealing? "A puritan is a censor, a prude, an enemy of the arts." And yet, the Puritans "were certainly united in their belief that works of art were necessary adjuncts of political greatness." The Guardian (UK) 02/17/02

THE DEATH OF CITY LIFE? "James Howard Kunstler's 1993 book The Geography of Nowhere was an impassioned rant against suburbia, shopping malls, cheap disposable architecture and the fragmentation of communities fostered by an increasingly mobile, car-oriented culture. His latest book, The City in Mind, is a sort of companion to that earlier volume, a jeremiad against poor urban planning and the decline of the American city. His outlook is pessimistic, to say the least." The New York Times 02/22/02

SAYING NO TO CIVIC ART SINCE 1911: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a textbook example of a city risen from the ashes of a bleak, post-industrial malaise that many thought it could never dig out from. But although many aspects of Pittsburgh life are much improved, the realm of public art is still a difficult area. The city's Art Commission, when it is mentioned at all, is usual cited as a bunch of folks determined to put a stop to civic art projects for one reason or another, rather than a group encouraging new and diverse public art. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/20/02

WHO NEEDS LONDON? "The decision as to which UK city will be appointed European Capital of Culture in 2008 will be made in March," and at least one British writer is pitching an unlikely candidate. "To argue against Belfast winning the honour because it has no opera or ballet and has not produced a Belfast Ulysses is to deny the aspirations of present and future generations - culture pitches itself endlessly forward; culture is a debate, an argument." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/02

10. FOR FUN 

THE EXTRA WHO WENT ASTRAY: Somehow in the onstage confusion of the finale of the Metropolitan Opera's War and Peace, an extra (dressed as a French soldier) ended up off the stage and into the orchestra pit. "Was it a fall? Or more of a leap? Opera fans are gossiping and performers, from the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko to the American bass-baritone Samuel Ramey to extras to orchestra members are still scratching their heads in this latest mystery at the Met, itself no stranger to intrigues onstage and off." The New York Times 02/20/02